Well, briefly, what a party it was! But not for us - well not exactly, although I am so pleased it went so well for Yorkshire. You see, we have a camper van and nothing is better designed for watching the Tour in France, Belgium, Italy or any other European country it passes through - except, not in the UK. What we had planned to do to park by the side of the road at least a day or so beforehand, finding the perfect spot on an uphill section where the riders are not whizzing past in a huge peleton at 40 mph.
So we planned several suitable places by using maps, Street View and the detailed route plan of the first day's stage. In France etc, it seems you can park more or less anywhere in the countryside as long as you don't block the road. And certainly lay-bys are fine and picnic areas. You can see them in droves on TV's TdeF coverage. But not, here. All lay-bys had been roped off and signs everywhere warned you not to park except at designated 'pop-up' camp-sites with big screens or in town squares. Otherwise you would be towed away. Of course, you could catch a designated bus from approved stops and then walk 2 or 3 miles or more to a place where you could stand in huge crowds, if you were lucky - and many were. Plus if you so happened to live in a town or village on the route, well bingo!. Now, walking to a suitable vantage point would be absolutely fine, if you're able to climb up steep hills either on foot or on your your bike with a rucksack containing enough food and drink to last several hours and you could find a handy portaloo. (Have you ever used one of those when it's been used for more than an hour?) Since my stroke, I'm still a little wobbly on my legs. A non-starter for me.
But with a trusty camper-van, everything would have been hunky-dory. As we have a tank of fresh water, our own loo, a shower etc. And although there is no mains electricity away from a camp-site, we can use our gas-heater, cooker and kettle. Perfect.
We were sunk. We have roughed it in our youth - at pop festivals etc, but now we prefer some comfort - not to mention independence. Why watch the tour on a big screen in a crowd when you can watch in comfort at home?
Vive La France and their liberal approach to camper-van parking!
PS. For anyone who is still interested, I am still revising my novel in progress. It's amazing what you can do in a camper-van. I can even see the light at the end of the tunnel. As long as it's not the Channel Tunnel and a TGF coming the other way.